Narcissism and Addiction – Is There a Connection Between Them?

narcissism and addiction

Narcissism is a personality disorder with many similarities to addiction. There are two types of narcissism, both of which can cause people to develop tendencies that encourage addictive behaviors.

Narcissism may incline people to problematic substance use, such as alcohol, as well as other types of addiction, such as sex and social media addiction.

This article examines the relationship between narcissism and addiction and explains why people with narcissism may be more likely to engage in addictive behaviors than others.

What exactly is narcissism?

The American Psychiatric Association defines narcissism as a personality disorder characterized by a lack of empathy for others and a need for constant and excessive validation.

A narcissistic personality disorder sufferer may have an inflated or magnificent sense of self-importance as well as feelings of entitlement.

Although there are many different types of narcissistic personality disorders, they can be divided into two categories:

Vulnerable narcissism

People with vulnerable narcissism are more likely to engage in avoidant, defensive, or hypersensitive behaviors, and they frequently experience feelings of rage in response to a perceived lack of esteem or respect.

Grandiose narcissism

People with grandiose narcissism have very high self-esteem, act imperiously, and overestimate their own abilities.

However, it is important to note that the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders does not differentiate between types of narcissism. Instead, it treats them as if they are the same thing.

The distinction between vulnerable and grandiose narcissism stems from the psychodynamic idea that people with narcissistic traits believe they must be perfect to be okay.

As a result, these people rely on others to validate their significance and worth. When they receive this confirmation, they experience grandiosity and may act arrogantly.

However, in the absence of affirmation, the same person may feel depressed and ashamed. As a result, whether a person has grandiose narcissism or vulnerable narcissism is determined by the presence or absence of external validations of their value.

How narcissism and addiction are connected?

Both grandiose and vulnerable narcissism are strongly linked to substance use disorders.

An article published in Frontiers in Psychiatry in 2019 examines the relationship between problematic substance use and narcissism, concluding that self-esteem plays a significant role.

Both fluctuating and low self-esteem can lead to the use of alcohol, or other addictive behaviors as a form of validation, which is critical for people with narcissism.

Grandiose narcissism is a factor in a variety of other addictions, including:

  • Smartphone use
  • Social media use
  • Obsessive shopping
  • Compulsive working

This disorder can cause the individual to experience overwhelming feelings of shame. The individual then seeks out alcohol or other substances to alleviate these feelings, which leads to even more feelings of shame and so on.

This establishes a pattern of dependent behavior, which is extremely dangerous.

Alcoholism and narcissism

According to a 2018 study of 345 college students, narcissism is a strong predictor of alcohol-related problems.

This study concluded that people with grandiose narcissism are better able to evaluate and recognize their alcohol problems than people with vulnerable narcissism.

People in the latter group are less able to recognize that they have a problem and, as a result, are less likely to be willing to change their behaviors.

A separate 2019 study of hundreds of students’ drinking habits discovered that devaluing others, a narcissistic trait was more common in people who struggled to control their drinking.

It was also discovered that rage over a sense of entitlement, which is common in people with narcissism, is linked to alcoholism.

Narcissism and substance abuse disorder

People with narcissistic traits and those who abuse drugs have widely accepted similar traits.

According to a 2020 review of research on narcissism and substance use disorders, low self-esteem that requires external validation from others can increase the risk of substance use disorders.

It also emphasizes how a lack of empathy for others and feelings of invulnerability allow people to continue using drugs, despite the obvious harm they cause to the individual and those around them.

The review’s authors also speculate that people with narcissism may use drugs to achieve a sense of superiority over others while also alleviating feelings of inferiority caused by fluctuating self-esteem.

Sexual addiction and narcissism

Many studies have found a strong link between narcissism and problematic sexual behavior, most notably infidelity and sexual assault.

The same factors that lead to problematic alcohol and drug use can also lead to sex addiction. These include unstable or low self-esteem, devaluing others, and a sense of invulnerability.

People with narcissistic personality disorders may want to exert control over their sexual partner’s behavior for their satisfaction, and they may have an inflated sense of sexual entitlement.

A 2014 study on narcissism and the use of internet pornography discovered a direct correlation between the amount of narcissism and the amount of time spent viewing pornographic material.

It was also discovered that those who watch internet pornography are more likely to be narcissistic than those who do not.

Addiction to social media and narcissism

Although it is a relatively new phenomenon, social media addiction has existed since the advent of online sharing of photos and status updates.

A 2018 meta-analysis of 62 studies discovered that grandiose narcissism has a moderate association with increased social network use. It discovered that people with grandiose narcissism have more friends and followers and spend more time on social media than others. 

A follow-up study published in 2020 discovered that narcissism may play a role in social media addiction.

Addiction vs. Narcissism

People suffering from narcissism and those suffering from addiction have similar personality traits. These include a lack of empathy and a willingness to put themselves in harm’s way to feel superior.

According to research, people with narcissism are more likely to engage in impulsive and abusive behaviors when using alcohol, drugs, or even social media, putting them at a higher risk of addiction.

Although experts believe that genetic factors can make people up to 50% more likely to develop an alcohol use disorder, addiction can have a variety of causes. Environmental factors, social factors, and emotional factors are examples of these.

It is important to note that people who have an addiction do not always exhibit symptoms of a narcissistic personality disorder, and people who have narcissism do not always develop an addiction.

Seeking assistance

People who are having issues with alcohol, drugs, or sex should see a doctor or mental health professional. A doctor can provide assistance and treatment to those suffering from addiction, which may include recommending lifestyle changes or rehabilitation clinics.

A mental health professional can help you navigate the symptoms of narcissistic personality disorder and rule out other behavioral disorders. They may ask the individual to complete a questionnaire about their behavior.

People suffering from a narcissistic personality disorder may benefit from talk therapy. It can assist them in learning how to develop empathy for others and improve their ability to regulate their emotions.

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People with narcissistic personality disorders have traits in common with addicts, and both types of narcissistic personality disorder can lead to addiction.

Many people who suffer from narcissism have an addiction to alcohol, sex, drugs, or social media. However, not everyone who suffers from narcissism also suffers from an addiction, and vice versa.

People who believe they may have an addiction or a personality disorder should seek advice and treatment from a mental health professional.

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